Difference Between Internal Medicine and Family Practice

There are two main types of physicians, primary care givers and specialists. Internal medicine and family practice are two closely related branches of primary care. Though quite similar, there is difference between internal medicine and family practice. Doctors who practice internal medicine are referred to as internists, while family medicine physicians are typically known as family doctors or general practitioners.

What Is Internal Medicine?

Internal medicine is a medical specialty dealing with the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of all the diseases affecting adult population come under its domain. Doctors who complete an internal medicine residency are called internists; they can be generalists or specialists.

Internists are trained to deal with all sort of medical problems, they are able to diagnose, treat and manage illnesses ranging from simple diseases to complex syndromes. Whatever problem the patients bring to them, they are able to solve the clinical puzzle. With sound knowledge and years of practice they can handle severe chronic illnesses and are able to deal with complex scenarios where many ailments are present in a single patient.

They enhance the patients' understanding of disease prevention and promote healthy living. They are able to address sensitive issues like mental health and addictions. Treatment of common infections and diseases of skin, eyes, throat, gastrointestinal, CNS or genitourinary system also come under their area of expertise.

What Is Family Medicine?

To understand the difference between internal medicine and family practice, you should first know what family medicine is about. Family medicineis themedical specialty dedicated to provide comprehensive health care for people of all age groups; the specialist is normally referred to as a family doctor orfamily physician. Most medical specialties are limited to a particular system or a specific age group, but family physicians provide comprehensive care for patients belonging to all genders and every age group. They receive training in internal medicine, and other specialties such as pediatrics, obstetrics, gynecology, surgery, psychiatry, and geriatric, and this diverse training enables them to provide highest standards of care to all individuals of a family.

In addition to diagnosing and treating illness, they provide preventive healthcare and manage chronic illness. They also coordinate with different specialists dealing with the same patient. Their patient population can have any illness, from diabetes, heart disease and stroke to cancer, hypertension and asthma. It is the job of family doctors to provide safe, ongoing and effective personal care for the most serious health problems present in their patient population.

Difference Between Internal Medicine and Family Practice

Family practice and internal medicine are closely related fields. Physicians providing both services, act as primary care providers, they have attended four years of medical school, followed by a three year residency. The two areas are differentiated mainly by focus of the residency program.

  • Family doctors have training in broader areas to meet the needs of all age groups, and their exposure in gynecology, obstetrics and pediatrics enables them to care for all members of the family.
  • Internal medicine training focuses mainly on disease affecting adults. Internists are more likely to work in hospital environments, acting as members of a care-giving team, coordinating patient's treatment with other practitioners.

Other Types of Primary Care Physicians

With the difference between internal medicine and family practice explained, you may also want to know other types of primary care physicians. Primary care providers or "PCP" are usually physicians, but can also be nurse practitioners or physician's assistants, who work under the direction of a physician.

A variety of medical professionals are trained to provide you and your family with the best of primary care. To help you decide which care provider may be right for you, here is some helpful information about several types of them:

  • Obstetricians/Gynecologists: These doctors have completed a residency and are board-certified, or board-eligible, in obstetrics and gynecology. They are generally the primary care providers for women, particularly of childbearing age.
  • Pediatricians: Doctors who complete a pediatric residency program and are either board-certified or board-eligible, are known as pediatricians. They care of newborns, infants, children, and adolescents come under their area of expertise.
  • M.D.s and D.O.s: To become primary care physicians, all doctors have to complete medical school and get a degree as, MD, MBBS or DO. After graduation they can take postgraduate training in primary care programs, such as family medicine. These physicians are generally the first contact point for any patient presenting with an undiagnosed health concern. They provide continuing care for various medical conditions, not limited by diagnosis, organ system, or cause.
  • Nurse practitioners and physician assistants: These practitioners go through a different training and certification process than doctors. In some practices, they can be your key contact.
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